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‘Like a war zone’: 3 officers down, suspect dead in shooting spree

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Three police officers were shot Saturday in a high-speed chase that tore across the city, culminating in the death of the suspect who had stolen a police cruiser and sprayed bullets as he was pursued.

Two of the injured officers, who are with the Albuquerque Police Department, were listed in stable condition Saturday night and expected to recover, according to APD. The third was a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy. There was no word on the deputy’s condition.

Investigators attend to the body of a male suspected of shooting three police officers during a sprawling, chaotic police chase Saturday from South Broadway to the North Valley. Witnesses said the suspect stole a police cruiser and crashed it next to a gas pump near Montaño and Fourth Street, after police pursued and shot at him. (Juan Labreche/For the Albuquerque Journal)

Investigators attend to the body of a male suspected of shooting three police officers during a sprawling, chaotic police chase Saturday from South Broadway to the North Valley. Witnesses said the suspect stole a police cruiser and crashed it next to a gas pump near Montaño and Fourth Street, after police pursued and shot at him. (Juan Labreche (@labrechemode)/For the Albuquerque Journal)

Authorities did not identify the officers or the male suspect, or say how he died.

Police released little information about the events. But numerous witness accounts across the city pieced together a picture of a calculated ambush of police officers by a male, wearing camouflage and wielding a high-powered rifle, who led police on a chase from southeast Albuquerque into the North Valley. Witnesses described fleeing or hiding for cover as the bullets flew.

The chase left at least four crime scenes in its wake: Near Broadway and Iron; Broadway and Martin Luther King Jr.; Fourth and Montaño; and Fourth and Schulte.

Carlos Correa, a tire technician at a shop near Broadway and Iron, said he saw a man washing his black Corvette around 11:30 a.m. The man was approached by the suspect carrying a gun, which is described in varying accounts as an AK-47 and a semiautomatic rifle, and told something to the effect of, “I’m not going to hurt you, but call APD and tell them I’m waiting at the bus stop.”

Correa said the suspect then walked across to the east side of Broadway and hunkered down behind a bus stop enclosure and a couple of cars.

When an APD officer arrived, Correa said, the suspect opened fire and he and co-workers fled into their shop. He witnessed one gunshot and heard at least 14 others, Correa told the Journal.

“I wasn’t going to sit around and watch,” he said.

A00_jd_27oct_Police-ChaseWitnesses north of the scene said they saw an officer arrive, step out of his car and begin firing at the suspect before running backward. Then, they saw the shooter calmly get into the police officer’s empty car and drive away.

“He done it like real calm,” said witness Ernie Olguin. “I thought he was a cop.”

Hundreds of bystanders were gathered at an event for homeless people at the Salvation Army on Broadway near Coal when the shots rang out. Witnesses said they heard multiple gunshots exchanged between the suspect and police, and one man said the suspect was shooting wildly.

“Everyone went to the floor and then we hid behind RVs in the parking lot,” witness Juan Rivera said. “He was just randomly shooting …”

Michael Givens, an employee at the nearby G Money Smoke Shop, said it appeared the shooter was using a semiautomatic weapon.

“It sounded like a war zone,” he said. “There were bullets whizzing by. It was really close.”

Witnesses said no one at the event was injured, and there were no other reports of injuries from elsewhere in the city.

From there, it’s unclear exactly how the chase ended up in the North Valley.

Witnesses said the suspect collected a trail of dozens of police cars during the chase.

At least one other police vehicle was disabled near Broadway and Martin Luther King Jr., where a car was seen surrounded by police tape and with a flat tire.

An APD cruiser stolen by a shooting suspect emits smoke just moments after crashing into a North Valley gas station. The suspected shooter, dressed in camouflage, was found dead after the shooting just before noon. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Kittle)

An APD cruiser stolen by a shooting suspect emits smoke just moments after crashing into a North Valley gas station. The suspected shooter, dressed in camouflage, was found dead after the shooting just before noon. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Kittle)

Eventually, the suspect led police north along Fourth Street to Schulte. Witness Lori Morgan had just exited her car with her husband at a burger restaurant near Fourth and Osuna a little before noon when the police vehicles flew past. She said the chase went north of her, presumably to Schulte, and she heard six or seven shots. Then the vehicles went past her again heading south and she heard three or four gunshots about 30 seconds later, she said.

The chase eventually ended at a gas station on the northwest corner of the intersection at Fourth and Montaño, where an APD cruiser could be seen Saturday afternoon crumpled against a concrete barrier in front of a gas pump. A police bomb squad robot was also poking around near what appeared to be the body of a young person dressed in camouflage.

Jim Dougherty, an Albuquerque resident, was pulling into the gas station on the way back from a dog park when he saw an APD cruiser barreling toward him in the rearview mirror. He said the driver was trying to speed through the gas station into a neighborhood west of Fourth Street, but instead the suspect swerved to avoid hitting Dougherty at the last minute and struck the gas pump barrier.

“I was the last car,” he said, shaken up. “I was what made him swerve.”

He said he then saw police officers shoot at the suspect three times through the stolen police vehicle’s back windshield. Police would not confirm that the suspect suffered fatal gunshot wounds.

“It was quite frightening,” he said. “It’s not something I’ve ever experienced before.”

Christine Rocha, left, and Celine Lopez-Kinney cross Broadway at Iron on Saturday after waiting for police lines to come down after the Saturday shooting. Rocha said she heard 15-20 gunshots and saw a sheriff’s deputy fire his gun while taking cover behind a truck. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Christine Rocha, left, and Celine Lopez-Kinney cross Broadway at Iron on Saturday after waiting for police lines to come down after the Saturday shooting. Rocha said she heard 15-20 gunshots and saw a sheriff’s deputy fire his gun while taking cover behind a truck. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

The shooting likely happened just before noon, witnesses said.

In a joint statement, APD Chief Allen Banks and Sheriff Dan Houston called the shooting “tragic” and asked witnesses to come forward with information.

Witnesses are asked to call 242-2677 with information.

“We pray that all three will fully recover,” the top law enforcement officials said in the statement. ” … There are multiple scenes as the shooter fired at officers throughout the entirety of this incident. There are a lot of witnesses that still need to be interviewed. We expect the investigation to last for an extended period of time.”

Gov. Susana Martinez issued a statement late Saturday, offering her support to APD, the Sheriff’s Office and their officers.

“My husband is a life-long law enforcement officer, so I fully understand the danger that our police officers face each and every day and the impact it has on their loved ones,” Martinez said. “I ask all New Mexicans to join Chuck and me in keeping these officers and their loved ones in our prayers.”

Journal staff writer Nicole Perez contributed to this report.

 

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